ENERGY Minister Stuart Young is optimistic that Project Lara, a major renewable energy project that Government is pursuing with the private sector, will be signed off and implemented before the end of February. He made this comment at the virtual Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference 2022 on Monday.
Referring to renewable energy initiatives mentioned by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the 2022 budget last October, Young regretted there was no sign-off on the 112.2 megawatts solar photovoltaic project with a consortium comprising bpTT, Shell and Lighthouse bpTT.
"I am embarrassed to say that I did not meet my target for the month of January to be able to sign off on Project Lara with Lighthouse bp."
Young said, "I am intending and I will guarantee today (Monday) to have the agreement finalised, settled and signed and executed before the end of February."
Last October, Imbert said the project involved the construction of two solar photovoltaic plants at Couva and Trincity at a cost of US$100 million.
Young said on Monday Government is looking at certain solar projects in the Gulf of Paria as well as the use of some quarries for other solar projects.
Lighthouse bp CEO Nick Boyle, who also addressed the conference, was glad to hear the agreement will be finalised soon. Boyle said renewable energy projects, such as Project Lara, allows natural gas that would have been used for electricity generation to be utilised for other purposes.
Young also underscored the importance of striking the right balance between proper energy usage and climate change. He made this point in response to a contribution from special envoy (on investments and financial services) to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, Prof Avinash Persaud.
Persaud said countries whose economies are centred on fossil fuels must not believe they have an inordinate period of time to make the transition to cleaner, more sustainable energy.
Reminding participants that one of the agreements out of last November's COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland was achieving global net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Persaud said fossil-fuel producing nations have 20 years to make that change. Referring to an earlier contribution by Guyana President Dr Mohammed Irfaan Ali, Persaud said, "The challenge for fossil fuel producers is how do you make the energy and economic transition." While the usage of renewable energy in Barbados is currently 20 per cent, Persaud indicated the objective of Mottley's administration is to reduce the island's carbon emissions by 70 per cent.
He told participants that transitioning to cleaner energy was a key plank in Mottley's Barbados Labour Party's (BLP) recent successful general election campaign. The BLP won all 30 seats in a snap election on January 19. As he acknowledged Persaud's comments, Young said, "When your economy is dependent on something, your perspective is of course focused on the protection of that (something)."
He recalled when the covid19 pandemic began in March 2020, a big part of the conversation at the time was the impact of covid19 on cruise ships and Caricom countries with tourism-dependent economies.
With TT's economy heavily dependent on the energy sector, Young said, "We in TT of course have to find a balance." That balance, he continued, "is the protection of our energy-based economy whilst being very focused on our global objectives and our global commitment to reduce the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and to decarbonise and invest in greener, cleaner energy."
In the conversation about climate change, Young said, "Let's not fool ourselves. I'll start by saying at the outset, our (Caribbean's) contribution to the dangerous global climate change and warming is miniscule."
Nevertheless, he said, the region must play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the net zero carbon target outlined at COP26.
"The truth is, this really is a conversation that we need to take to the wealthy and developed countries (who are the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions)." He said apart from ensuring these countries keep their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they must also keep their commitments to provide financial and technological assistance to developing countries to help reduce their emissions.
Referring to a meeting he had earlier in the day with officials of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) on issues related to renewable energy, Young suggested the CDB could liaise with other entities on the financing aspect of renewable energy initiatives.
TT, Young said, is fortunate that 99. 9 per cent of its electricity is generated through the use of natural gas. As the cleanest fossil fuel, he said, "The reality is natural gas is here to stay and will be here for many decades to come."
He also said ammonia and methanol, which are produced by companies at the Pont Lisas Industrial Estate, are at the forefront of the products being used for clean energy. Young reminded participants he was part of the delegation that accompanied the Prime Minister to the COP26 summit. He recalled seeing inoperable wind turbines on several hills in Scotland and an energy crisis that affected several European countries, which were heavily dependent on renewable energy, last year.
Young said this reinforces the view that renewables by themselves will will not satisfy all energy needs. "There is no one stop fix."